The UK has submitted a formal request to the EU to establish border checkpoints in Northern Irish ports as part of post-Brexit arrangements.
The government has asked the EU if it can create Border Control Posts (BCPs) – facilities used to check livestock and food entering the EU single market – in all major Northern Ireland ports.
After Brexit, Northern Ireland will remain in the single market, while the rest of the UK will not. This will mean some products entering the region from mainland Britain will be subject to checks.
This development comes after a leaked government document showed that new customs checks will be in place in the Irish Sea after Brexit.
Commenting on the submission, a government spokesperson said: ‘We have always been clear that, following the Northern Ireland Protocol, there would be a limited expansion of facilities at some existing entry points, where certain controls for animal and plant health already take place.
‘We have submitted applications for these entry points on time and there will be no new customs infrastructure in Northern Ireland.’
Northern Ireland agriculture minister Edwin Poots hit out at the move and refused to cooperate with Westminster until they clarified how BCPs would be used.
Although Poots agreed there was a legal responsibility to establish the checkpoints, he pushed UK agriculture minister George Eustice to exempt certain supermarkets and traders from them.
‘I am currently unable to present a full application due to the lack of certainty around a number of key areas including the level of checks required,’ he said in a letter to Eustice.
But Downing Street has moved ahead with the application, arguing Brexit trade talks is not a matter for Westminster, and not the devolved administrations.
Twitter users were less than pleased with the announcement.
Labour former MEP Seb Dance said: ‘You can have Brexit or the Union, but you can’t have both.’
Liberal Democrats spokesperson Jonathan Banks said: ‘This, arguably, was the biggest, and most predictable lie. It’s also dangerous in the extreme.
‘This is not compatible with the spirit or the agreements so hard won on the Island of Ireland.’
Matthew Hankins reminded users about the much-flaunted ‘technological solution’ Tory MPs previously promoted as a means to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
‘Turns out the ‘technological solution’ was pretty low-tech,’ he wrote.
David Head recommended a nickname for the new customs posts: ‘It would be appropriate if Boris Johnson or Michael Gove were invited to open the new Northern Ireland Border Control Posts – to be known henceforth as ‘Boris Barriers’.’